Seán Doyle is taking the helm at British Airways after less than two years as chief executive of Aer Lingus in a shake-up announced by Luis Gallego, head of International Airlines' Group (IAG), owner of both former national carriers.
The change is part of Gallego’s effort to combat the worst crisis yet to face commercial aviation. What is of immediate concern to us, though, is Doyle’s recall to British Airways as it leaves the Irish airline with no permanent chief executive.
Donal Moriarty, Aer Lingus's head of corporate affairs, takes over as interim chief executive, a natural enough choice given that he is a long-standing member of senior management who has worked closely with Doyle on its response to Covid-19.
IAG will announce a permanent appointment in “due course”. That person could well be Moriarty, but anyone reading the group’s statement on Monday would feel that the leadership of British Airways was more of a priority than the question of who will ultimately run the Irish carrier.
Doyle's appointment to British Airways is permanent. As is normal at IAG airlines, the Corkman will also take over as chairman after a transition period during which his predecessor, Alex Cruz, will remain in that role.
British Airways unquestionably faces a severe crisis and it is seeking 13,000 job cuts. Nevertheless, Aer Lingus, whose operations are critical to the Republic, is in much the same position.
North American routes, its main source of growth, are drastically curtailed. It has been grappling with the Republic's travel restrictions, the most severe in Europe, a problem to which its main rival in short-haul, Ryanair, is less exposed given the pan-European nature of its business.
Critics of the government decision to sell its shares in Aer Lingus to IAG have recently re-emerged. By appearing to prioritise British Airways, the group may have unwittingly given them extra ammunition, which they will happily use when the question of State aid for routes or airlines comes up, as it inevitably will, in coming weeks.